Reproductive Justice

And Reproductive Justice MUST include adoptee voices because adoptees are intimately familiar with the same systems of white supremacist violence that make reproductive justice necessary. Today’s blog is thanks to an op-ed by Tina Vasquez in LINK>Prism. The goal of this series about reproductive justice and adoption was simple – disrupt the adoption storytelling that has become the norm in mainstream media. These feel-good stories from the perspective of adoptive parents rarely include the voices of adoptees or question the preponderance of “cheap, easy, and fast” transracial and international adoptions by evangelicals that amount to little more than child trafficking.

No more salvation narratives. No more narratives of gratitude. No more framing adoption as a “win-win.” No more white saviors. We will question adoption as a system—its power dynamics, its economics, and its privileging of certain “reproductive destinies.” “Out of the Fog” is a phrase adoptees often use to describe facing the reality of their adoptions.

LINK>Operation Stop Child Protective Services (CPS) was founded by Amanda Wallace. She spent 10 years as a child abuse investigator before realizing that “she had become the silent enforcer for an oppressive system.” She now lends her insider knowledge to families navigating the system and trying to regain custody of their children.

About 27% of adoptions are transracial, according to a recent survey from the Department of Health and Human Services: birth mothers are disproportionately women of color, and adoptive parents are overwhelmingly white. Low-income Black and Native American children are the most likely to be separated from their families. Poverty is often interpreted as neglect when applied to these people.

When Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, white evangelicals wasted no time communicating their desire to take the babies that result from forced pregnancies. Never mind that most people denied abortion care simply become parents and that there is little evidence linking abortion bans to increases in adoption.

Time and time again, the solution offered to state violence is adoption, yet we fail to center adoptees whose lived experiences and areas of expertise touch every injustice and systemic problem our movements battle against. This is especially true when it comes to reproductive justice. While efforts are being made to explicitly discuss adoption as a reproductive justice issue, adoptees’ voices are still not being uplifted in these conversations. Adoptees are building their own movements—including Facebook groups like LINK>Adoptees for Choice—but will movements for sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice invite them into the fold?

Will the US Supreme Court End the ICWA ?

Within my all things adoption group, I have become aware of the Indian Child Welfare Act, as one outspoken member has brought us awareness of this. The Indian Child Welfare Act was passed to redress years of mass separations of Native families.

In custody battles involving criminality and other race spouses, Native rooted children can find themselves removed over legal involvement and then removed again over abuse, ending up in and out of group homes and rehabilitation centers, and often eventually landing in foster care.

On November 9th, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Haaland v Brackeen, a case challenging the constitutionality of the Indian Child Welfare Act. Designed to keep Native American children in their communities during custody, foster care and adoption proceedings, ICWA was passed in 1978 in response to the mass separations of families that had been customary since the 19th century. Many Native American activists are worried for the future of ICWA, given the rightwing composition of the supreme court.

Some history – In 1860, the Bureau of Indian Affairs opened the first of what would become more than 350 American Indian boarding schools, with the intention of “civilizing” Native American children – an assimilationist policy regarded by many as “cultural genocide” today. By the 1920s, nearly 83% of school-age Native American children were enrolled in boarding schools, where a government report found they were malnourished, overworked, harshly punished and poorly educated. As boarding school attendance increased into the 1960s and 70s – peaking at 60,000 in 1973 – the US government rolled out another program, called the Indian Adoption Project. It ended up placing 395 Native American children from western states with white families in the midwest and east coast.

By the 1970s, data showed that 25% to 35% of Native children had been removed from their families during the boarding school era, leading to the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act in 1978. According to the law, states are required to follow protocols when handling certain custody cases involving a Native child, including involving the tribe in the proceedings. Perhaps most notably, ICWA also establishes a placement preference system, requiring child welfare agencies to try to keep Native children within their communities – by placing them, for example, with extended family or with a foster family in their own tribe – to ensure that they do not lose ties to their heritage.

Despite ICWA’s existence, the law has often gone unenforced. That’s in part because there is no federal oversight agency monitoring compliance. Although the Bureau of Indian Affairs released guidelines designed to improve enforcement in 2016, tribal officials say that state welfare agencies regarded them as suggestions that were not legally binding.

Therefore, regarding this Supreme Court case – in 2016, a 10-month-old Navajo and Cherokee boy was fostered by a white Texas couple, Chad and Jennifer Brackeen, who ultimately adopted him. When the Navajo Nation was alerted to the case and stepped in to place the child with a Navajo family, the Brackeens sued.

The Supreme Court is set to hear arguments on November 9 2022 and eventually decide these questions related to the Haaland v Brackeen case – does the ICWA discriminate on the basis of race and does the law supersede a state’s right to control child custody placements ? The Brackeens and their supporters argue that ICWA violates the constitution’s equal protection clause, discriminating against them as a white family, and imposes unlawful requirements on states. The federal government and Native advocates say that Congress may enact laws that apply to states in order to uphold its treaty obligations, and that Native Americans belong to a political class based on their sovereign status, not a racial group. Overturning ICWA would reshape the legal relationship between the federal government and Indian tribes.

Many states are now enshrining ICWA in their state law. To date, ten states have codified ICWA – and eight have added provisions to augment it. Native-led coalitions in other states are working to do the same.

Most Were Unnecessary

The fact is most adoptions are unnecessary.

Answers to the questions that statement raises. Babies are highly in demand and sought after. There are 40 waiting hopeful adoptive parents to every ONE expectant mother/baby. From a business sense it is purely Supply and Demand. This is why domestic infant costs so much. This is why some wait YEARS for a baby. These babies aren’t “in need.” They won’t age out of foster care. They won’t grow up with “nowhere to go.” Adopting these babies isn’t helping anyone except the adoptive parent. Domestic infant adoption is 100% selfish. Most of these adoptions are unnecessary. Most of these mothers relinquish their babies for FINANCIAL reasons. If they had more money/support/resources they would keep their child.

The woman who simply doesn’t want her baby is RARE. These babies don’t need to be adopted because they have a mom and family. The family needs support to stay together. Most newborns are placed bc of TEMPORARY situations. Adoption in the US is a major industry. There isn’t a shortage of children to adopt. There is a massive shortage of babies/toddlers to adopt.

There is definitely a false but virally advertised dichotomy between abortion and adoption. One does not prevent the other. Making abortion illegal, doesn’t mean you’ll get your baby. Forcing a poor woman to give birth so that a wealthy infertile woman can have a baby makes women into breeding stock. It further traumatizes poor families, poor communities and in the case of trans racial domestic infant adoption a recognized form of cultural genocide.

The majority of adoptions are Euro-ethnic INFANTS. Children under the age of 6 years old are the MOST likely to be adopted in the United States and most of those infants are adopted through private adoption (by which I mean not through the state agencies). Some actually place the number of people hoping to adopt vs the number of infants available for adoption as high as 100/1. Some of those people hoping to adopt may decide for whatever reason to adopt darker-skinned infants and a handful may choose to adopt an older child at a later time.

If an expectant mother seeks “help” from a Crisis Pregnancy Center, or calls an adoption agency, they will be pressured with coercive tactics such as guilt (“this family has been waiting so long! You’ll be the answer to their prayers! You’re so brave!”) or shame (“this family can provide two parents for your child. How can you give this child everything they need?). All to convince expectant parents to relinquish their child to the adoptive parents, at which point the money comes into the picture as the adoption agency receives a “finder’s fee” for that child.

This is honestly how the process works. I support financially supporting families so that they can remain together. This is known as family preservation. I will continue working to make the adoption of newborn infants less necessary.

Profiles In Adoption

National Council for Adoption recently conducted this survey of adoptive parents. They are supposed to be surveying birth parents and adoptees next, but it’s clear from this survey who has the loudest voices and is viewed as most important when it comes to adoption. This organization is the face of what can be viewed as the adoption machine in this country.

You can read the 48 page report, based on the results of this survey, at their website. Look for the “Read the Report” link in the orange bubble here –>National Council for Adoption. The paragraphs below come from the report’s highlights, as excerpted on page 3, with some additions from my current perspectives.

Adoptive parents tend to be very highly educated and have relatively high household incomes. According to their adoptive parents, adoptees have very positive educational outcomes. Some have an Individualized Educational Plan (IEP). This is a plan or program developed to ensure that a child who has a disability identified under the law and is attending an elementary or secondary educational institution receives specialized instruction and related services. Some have a 504 Plan. This is intended to help kids who need more support in public school. This plan’s name does not clearly identify its purpose. A 504 plan makes changes at the school level, so that the child can learn. Some people mix up 504 plans with special education. They’re not the same. Special education is special instruction for kids who need more than standard teaching. A 504 plan, on the other hand, is about making sure the classroom fits how your child learns.

Anyone who has been at all involved in broad based adoption related communities (that is one that includes adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents) would not be surprised to learn that due to the trauma involved in adoption generally, many adoptees will receive an impact diagnosis of some sort during their childhood. They will also therefore require therapeutic services after an adoption has been finalized.

The current trend in our modern times is that, eventually, adoptees will regain some contact with their original birth parents, siblings and other extended genetic family. In the best circumstances, the adoptive parents encourage and facilitate these reunions.

Also related to modern trends is that adoptive parents with a child of a different race/ethnicity will seek activities in which the child and their adoptive parents can participate so that they may become familiar with cultural aspects related to their biology and/or country of birth.

Today’s blog is simply to make your aware of this survey and resource for information you may not find through other avenues.

Endthepatriarchy’s Blog Comment

At the end of this comment, the person wrote – “I am truly astonished you have read this entire comment. You must REALLY care. Thank you for reading.” I do – REALLY CARE.

This appeared in response to the blog titled Adoption Is A Selfish Act, which I posted back on Nov 25, 2020.  I write daily so that is going pretty far back.  I am surprised to see that blog had 23 views because I am lucky to get a couple of views on any single day.  I did go back and read it again.

And I did read all of your long comment and found it sincere and thoughtful. 

Your comment went into my spam folder because of your using MY Gazing In The Mirror WordPress website address. This troubled me right away.  How you could even do that is beyond me but obviously it is possible.  BTW that blog has nothing to do with this one except they have the same author.  I attempted to email you to clarify this but it bounced.  It appears to be related to Greenbrier Schools in Greenbrier, Arkansas. My paternal grandfather’s family is deeply rooted in Arkansas.

I was inclined to approve your comment anyway but have decided, to instead address your comments in this new blog, and feel that you may see this one too.  I always try to not only be honest but respectful and considerate of anyone who comments. So that you have hidden yourself makes me sad. Maybe you do not have confidence in yourself enough to present yourself to me honestly.

I will make a few responses but because of all of the above will not show your entire comment.

Certain references to saviorism, which often does drive adoptions – especially on the Evangelical Christian side of religion, seem to have troubled you. I can understand that you feel an emotional objection to that as you state that you are a Christian.

As to overpopulation, at one time I was more worried about that but it is expected to peak at 8 billion in 2040 and then decline. Overpopulation article on Vox.

Regarding “Open Adoption”, unfortunately a lot of good intentions going into such an agreement fall apart – either sooner or later. Most do not succeed in living up to the promises.

The identity issue you dismiss is real and I don’t think it is brought on by being treated differently due to adoption (except in cases of transracial adoption where the difference in race between the adoptive parents and the adoptee stands out). Fact is, babies are born with a name given to them by the conceiving parents and in adoption, most adoptive parents change the child’s name to something different that they like better. My parents (both adoptees) used to tease one another with their birth names – once they had been able to even learn those. An adoptee lives under an “assumed” name much like a criminal on the run might.

What is interesting is that you seem so passionate about these issues – when you admit that you are not adopted and that you don’t even have children yourself nor do you want any. If you could be open with me about who you are, I’d be happy to discuss whatever in more detail with you. As it is, I have written about almost everything to do with adoption or foster care so much – that I’ve probably all said it all before and am always in danger of repeating myself. I wish you well-being and happiness.

Parallels – Adoption & Abduction

A chart created by The Bumbling Adoptee on Facebook caught my attention – “the loss and trauma associated with infant abduction and infant adoption run parallel.”

The author shows in graphic form the vast differences regarding societal expectations in each situation as regards the outcomes. The similarities are in the loss of the child’s original family and the fact that the child is then raised by genetic strangers.

Within adoption – most of the time the child’s original name is changed. Some are not even told they were adopted, only to discover it later in life with a heavy emotional cost. Many adoptees will never be able to find out anything about who their original family was.

A lack of important medical information is a major issue for a lot of adoptees – it was for my parents (mom and dad were both adoptees) and has been for me as their child too.

It is now being acknowledged more frequently, though sometimes minimized by profit motivated interests, that there is trauma whenever a child is separated from their original family.

In the case of adoptions by one race of another race, there is often a loss of culture and native language.

The child never had a choice but was thrust into the situation.

How is an infant abduction viewed differently in society ?

Their original identity will always be considered their real identity. The law will side against the abductor. There will be an attempt to reunify the child with their original family. It is seen by society as a tragedy instead of a blessing or even God’s plan. The child is considered a victim.

In adoption, the outcome is far different with loyalty to the adoptive parents expected along with gratitude. Often society does not acknowledge the trauma that the adoptee experienced.

To simply this – An abducted child is expected to retain fond memories of, and long for reunification with, their “real” families of birth, and reject the abductor raising them, while adoptees are expected to bond unquestioningly to non-related strangers, and in some cases are expected or encouraged to abandon any thoughts or talk of seeking out their roots.

A longer article is available from The Huffington Post – Adoption and Abduction: Legal Differences, Emotional Similarities by Mirah Riben.

Colorblindness and Transracial Adoption

A Facebook video led me to Melissa Guida-Richards who is an author, adoptee and mom. I think I had encountered her before in one of the many articles she has written. Then I found one in People that starts off with her story. Though I understand enough about how problematic transracial adoptions are, I also accept that they have happened and will continue to happen in our current society.

On November 18 2021, hers was the lead story in a People magazine article on – Why ‘Colorblindness’ Doesn’t Work for Transracial Adoptions — and How to Get It Right. Melissa is what is referred to as a late-discovery adoptee. Someone who didn’t know they were adopted until well into maturity.

Melissa Guida-Richards grew up in an extended family that cherished their culture and heritage as Italian and Portuguese immigrants. So as a child, she was confused when outsiders would ask her if she was Latina or “something else.” In first grade a girl told her “you’re Black. You can’t play with me.” “I’d tell them I was Italian,” Guida-Richards, 28, says. “But I would be confused. I’d come home and ask my parents and they’re like ‘You’re Italian. You’re one of us. Just ignore people.” 

She believed her parents, who also had dark hair and eyes, that her dark skin came from some past Italian origins. Then, at 19, she found documents proving not only was she adopted, but so was her brother. They were both born in Colombia – and not biological siblings. 

For years, parents who adopted children of other races might have thought the “right” thing to do was to pretend like they “didn’t see color,” and not acknowledge their children’s differences. But disregarding their children’s race could have far-reaching impact, and is the subject of her recently released book “What White Parents Should Know About Transracial Adoption.”   Guida-Richards and others, like author and international speaker on transracial adoption Rhonda Roorda, assert a colorblind attitude does not serve transracial adoptees in a world where color often defines you. 

“Many adopted children of color struggle with their identities and white parents who cling to this narrative [of “colorblindness”] are doing their children a disservice,” Guida-Richards says. “What is important for adoptive parents to realize is that their privilege will not protect their children of color as they face discrimination and racism. They need to prepare their children for a world that does see color.” 

About one-third of all adoptions between 2017 and 2019 were transracial, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.  White megastars from Madonna to Angelina Jolie have adopted children of color, their photos gracing the covers of magazines. And the hit NBC series “This is Us” has put the adoption of a Black child into a white family – and his subsequent struggles impacting him into adulthood — front and center in an honest portrayal of the very real issues facing people of color in America compared to their white counterparts. 

“I think that because love was married to a colorblind policy saying we don’t see color. It has devastated many adoptees … we want to be seen,” Rhonda Roorda says. “I remember wanting to be white and dying to fit in, dying to please my parents, dying to understand the rules and the policies and the culture. It didn’t work. … We’re not seeing all of our children, we are not seeing the richness that they bring to the table.”

Guida-Richards was raised in a solidly white middle class New York suburb with limited diversity. Her father, who came to the United States from Italy at 13, told her the first Black person he ever saw was a student at his high school. “At first, they refused to even acknowledge I was Colombian, that I was a woman of color. They didn’t see me as the daughter they adopted from Colombia. They saw me as their daughter,” Guida-Richards says. “I understood that, but it left a big piece of my identity out.” Her family often emphasized that family and heritage matters, but they discouraged her from looking further into her own cultural background.

“I sat down with them and said, we need to talk about race. We need to talk about how I’m treated and how this has affected me,” Guida-Richards says. “It’s been 9 years and thankfully we are in a very good place.” While her late father came around fairly quickly, it took longer for her mom. Guida-Richards married a man whose mother was Colombian. When she became pregnant in 2016 with the first of their two children, her mom started opening up about her struggle with infertility and the decision to adopt. And she told her daughter that she was afraid that people, and even members of their family, would treat her differently if they knew she was Latina. 

“We did have prejudices that I experienced growing up in a white family who made fun of Latinos,” Guida-Richards says. “So when I found out I was Latina, I was like, how could you love me and say those things? They just wanted me to ignore that I was a woman of color and unfortunately, it’s not as easy they make it out to be.” Guida-Richards was honest with her mom about how she felt like “this big ugly secret” that her mom could only love as long as she fit into the mold. And she reminded her mother that she would soon be the grandmother to Latinos. “It took a lot of hard conversations until she understood,” Guida-Richards says. 

To help her understand her own feeling about being denied her heritage, Guida-Richards started reaching out to other adoptees, finding Facebook groups just for transracial adoption and adoptees from Colombia. “I realized that I wasn’t alone,” Guida-Richards says. “Race wasn’t addressed [growing up], so we struggled with our identity. We struggled with how to deal with racism because we weren’t prepared.” Guida-Richards eventually connected with her birth mother and her Colombian culture through both her birth mom’s family and her in-laws. “I knew a lot of Italian, I knew how to act Italian, but I had no idea what it is like to walk in the shoes of a Latina,” she says. “I just started to integrate a little bit at a time. Since my father was a chef who owned restaurants, food played a large part in my upbringing so I started with that.” 

As she started integrating the Colombian with the Italian traditions, she discovered that both her cultures tended to have a lot in common. “I’ve gotten to a place where I’m happy to be part of my adoptive family, but I’m also very happy that I have my birth family back in my life,” she says.

Unregulated

In 1994, a made for TV movie titled Baby Brokers tells the story of Debbie (how ironic being as how that is my name !!), an LA doctor (played by Cybill Shepherd) wanting to adopt who feels exploited by a couple who had at first seemed willing to sell their child to her but are actually scam artists, exploiting many women. If one didn’t know it is based on a true story, it would seem both strange and strangely perverse.  In my all things adoption group, such stories pop up consistently over time. According to the one critic who reviewed this movie – it is “not a terrible movie and to be honest is quite interesting but the impact of it comes from knowing that it is based on a true story and it is then when it comes to life.”

In this week’s Time Magazine (June 7/June 14 issue), there is an article by the same title – The Baby Brokers. The digital version subtitle is “Inside America’s Murky Private-Adoption Industry.” The cover photo of Shyanne Klupp includes these words – “I will never forget the way my heart sank. You have to buy your own baby back almost.” The article notes that the photo was taken on Nov 21 2020, and notes that she regrets placing her child for adoption a little over a decade ago, back in 2010. I see this all the time from birth mothers in my adoption group. The regret. And that is why this group works diligently to support expectant mothers by encouraging them to keep and raise their babies.

Shyanne Klupp was 20 years old and homeless when she met her boyfriend in 2009. Within weeks, the two had married, and within months, she was pregnant. “I was so excited,” says Klupp. Soon, however, she learned that her new husband was facing serious jail time. Poverty and such life circumstances as entanglements with the legal system do cause a significant number of adoptions.

Shyanne reluctantly agreed to start looking into how to place their expected child for adoption. The couple called one of the first results that Google spat out: Adoption Network Law Center (ANLC). Klupp says her initial conversations with ANLC went well; the adoption counselor seemed kind and caring and made her and her husband feel comfortable choosing adoption. ANLC quickly sent them packets of paperwork to fill out, which included questions ranging from personal-health and substance-abuse history to how much money the couple would need for expenses during the pregnancy.

The Time Magazine article notes – In the U.S., an expectant mother has the right to change her mind anytime before birth, and after for a period that varies state by state. While a 2019 bill proposing an explicit federal ban the sale of children failed in Congress, many states have such statutes and the practice is generally considered unlawful throughout the country.

Klupp says she had recurring doubts about her decision. But when she called her ANLC counselor to ask whether keeping the child was an option, she says, “they made me feel like, if I backed out, then the adoptive parents were going to come after me for all the money that they had spent.” That would have been thousands of dollars. She ended up placing her son, and hasn’t seen him since he left the hospital 11 years ago.

At any given time, an estimated 1 million U.S. families are looking to adopt and many of them want an infant. Those who want a baby far exceed the number of available babies available for adoption in the US. Some hopeful parents turn to international adoption. However many countries now limit the number of children they are willing to send out of their country. There’s always an option to adopt from foster care. Usually it is an older child, not an infant. For those with some financial wealth, there is private domestic adoption. That is the route my sister took to find a couple to adopt her baby.

ANLC is a largely unregulated, private-adoption organization located here in the US. The truth is – baby brokering a lucrative business. The problems with private domestic adoption appear to be widespread. The issues range from commission schemes and illegal gag clauses to Craigs List like ads for babies and discount rates for parents willing to adopt babies of another race (known as trans-racial adoption). There is no entity tracking the private adoption rate in the US. A best estimate developed by the Donaldson Adoption Institute in 2006 and a later one created by the National Council for Adoption in 2014 estimate the number of annual nonrelative infant adoptions at roughly 13,000 in 2006 to 18,000 in 2014. Public agencies are involved in only approximately 1,000 of these adoptions. The vast majority of domestic infant adoptions involve the private sector and money drives that exchange.

“It’s a fundamental problem of supply and demand,” says Celeste Liversidge, an adoption attorney in California who would like to see reforms to the current system. The scarcity of available infants, combined with the emotions of desperate adoptive parents and the advent of the Internet, has helped enable for-profit middlemen – from agencies and lawyers to consultants and facilitators – and these charge fees that frequently stretch into the tens of thousands of dollars per case.

“The money’s the problem,” says Adam Pertman, author of Adoption Nation and president of the National Center on Adoption and Permanency. “Anytime you put dollar signs and human beings in the same sentence, you have a recipe for disaster.”

Even though federal tax credits can subsidize private adoptions (as much as $14,300 per child for the adopting parents), there is no federal regulation of the industry. Relevant laws that govern everything from allowable financial support to how birth parents give their consent to an adoption are made at the state level and these vary widely. Some state statutes, for example, cap birth-mother expenses, while others don’t even address the issue. Mississippi allows birth mothers six months to change their mind; in Tennessee, it’s just three days. After the revocation period is over, it’s “too bad, so sad,” says Renee Gelin, president of Saving Our Sisters, an organization aimed at helping expectant parents preserve their families. “The mother has little recourse.”

In 2006, the Orange County California district attorney filed a scathing complaint against ANLC that the organization had committed 11 violations, including operating as a law firm without an attorney on staff and falsely advertising the co-founder Carol Gindis as having nursing degrees. While admitting to no wrongdoing, the firm agreed to pay a $100,000 fine. In 2010, former employees filed a discrimination and unlawful business practices lawsuit against ANLC. The company denied the allegations but the parties settled for an amount that plaintiffs are not allowed to reveal. Former ANLC employees also allege the company would encourage pregnant women to relocate to states where the adoption laws were more favorable and finalizations more likely. 

Expectant mothers considering adoption should know that being pressured to go through with an adoption could be grounds for invalidating their consent and potentially overturning the adoption. It is a question of whether the parents placed their children under duress. 

Stories of enticement and pressure tactics in the private-adoption industry abound. Mother Goose Adoptions, a middle-man organization in Arizona, has pitched a “laptop for life” program and accommodations in “warm, sunny Arizona.” A Is 4 Adoption, a facilitator in California, made a payment of roughly $12,000 to a woman after she gave birth, says an attorney involved in the adoption case. While the company says it “adheres to the adoption laws that are governed by the state of California,” the lawyer, who asked to remain anonymous because they still work on adoptions in the region, says they told A Is 4 Adoption’s owner, “You should not be paying lump sums. It looks like you’re buying a baby.”

Expectant mothers routinely face expense-repayment pressures when they consider backing out. Some states, such as California and Nevada, explicitly consider birth-parent expense payments as an “act of charity” that birth parents don’t have to pay back. In other states however, nothing prohibits adoption entities from trying to obligate birth parents to repay expenses when a match fails. Conditioning support on a promise to repay or later demanding repayment if there is no placement is at very least unethical.

In 2007, Dorene and Kevin Whisler were set to adopt through the Florida-based agency Adoption Advocates. When the agency told the Whislers the baby was born with disabilities, the couple decided not to proceed with the adoption—but they later found out that the baby was healthy and had been placed with a different couple, for another fee. After news coverage of the case, Adoption Advocates found itself under investigation. In a 2008 letter to Adoption Advocates, the Florida department of children and families (DCF) wrote that it had found “expenses that are filed with the courts from your agency do not accurately reflect the expenses that are being paid to the natural mothers in many instances.”

In 2018, the Utah department of human services (DHS) revoked the license of an agency called Heart and Soul Adoptions, citing violations ranging from not properly searching for putative fathers (a requirement in Utah) to insufficient tracking of birth-mother expenses. Rules prohibit anyone whose license is revoked from being associated with another licensed entity for five years. But a year later Heart and Soul owner Denise Garza was found to be working with Brighter Adoptions. 

Jennifer Ryan (who sometimes goes by “Jennalee Ryan” or “Jennifer Potter”) is a facilitator to adoption middle-men and operates the websites – Chosen Parents and Forever After Adoptions. Both include a section that lists babies for adoption, sort of like a Craigslist ad. One example from last August: “AVAILABLE Indian (as in Southeast Asia India) Baby to be born in the state of California in 2021…Estimated cost of this adoption is $35000.”

Reforms to private adoption practices could include mandatory independent legal representation for birth parents, better tracking of adoption data and the reining in of excessive fees. In 2013, the Illinois attorney general filed a complaint against ANLC. It contended they were breaking the law by offering and advertising adoption services in the state without proper licensing or approval. ANLC retained a high-profile Chicago law firm, and within months, the parties had reached a settlement. ANLC agreed that it would not work directly with Illinois-based birth parents but it did not admit any wrongdoing and called the resolution fair and reasonable.

The few reforms that have been made in adoption law are generally aimed at making the process easier for adoptive parents, who have more political and financial clout than birth parents. There is an assumption by most people in this country that adoption is a win-win solution. The problem is that most people don’t really understand what is actually going on in this industry. Private adoption could move more toward a nonprofit model that is similar to Nebraska Children’s Home Society. They are a nonprofit that does private adoptions only in Nebraska (with a sliding fee based on income) and which rarely allows adoptive parents to pay expenses for expectant parents.

A civilized society protects children and vulnerable populations. It doesn’t let the free market loose on them. Children should not be treated as a commodity. Expectant parents in difficult situations should not be exploited. It is always about the money with the profiteers. During the pandemic, Adoption Pro Inc (which now operates ANLC) was approved for hundreds of thousands of dollars in stimulus loans. Its social media accounts suggest it has plenty of adoptive-parent clients. ANLC continues to run hundreds of ads targeting expectant parents. For example, if you Googled the term “putting baby up for adoption” in January 2021, you might get shown an ANLC ad touting, “Financial & Housing Assistance Available.”

As for Shyanne Klupp, she has since immersed herself in an online adoption community (probably much like the one I am in). What she’s learned has slowly chipped away at the pleasant patina that once surrounded her adoption journey. This realization is common. It is described as “coming out of the fog.” The problem is the profit motive. Klupp admits “I know in my heart that I would have kept my son if I had had the right answers.” That is what groups like the one I belong to attempt to do.

Judging The Past By Present Values

Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw
~ photo by Carlos Osorio for the Toronto Star, 2012

As a Gemini, twins have always fascinated me. I have wondered if I once had a twin in utero who vanished. Having gone through assisted reproductive medical interventions, I know this happens. It happened with my older son when my pregnancy originally appeared to be twins. I really didn’t want the challenge but in my mom’s group we have several pairs of twins and one set of triplets. The father of the man I am married to was a twin. Both my father in law and his twin brother are now deceased.

The less than common occurrence of multiple births has my attention this morning after watching the documentary – Three Identical Strangers. The story tells how these men were separated at 6 mos and adopted out with strategic intent by the clinical psychiatrist, Peter Neubauer, through the cooperation of the Louise Wise adoption agency. Psychology Today did an article entitled The Truth About “Three Identical Strangers.” The article explains – Dr Viola Bernard was the chief psychiatric consultant to the Wise agency. In the late 1950s (before Dr Peter Neubauer was involved), Dr Bernard created a policy of separating identical twins when they were adopted. Dr Bernard’s intentions are described as benign. In a memo subsequently recovered, she expresses her hope that “early mothering would be less burdened and divided and the child’s developing individuality would be facilitated” by this separation. It wasn’t only the Wise agency but many other agencies that also practiced the separation of twins at the time of adoption.

The conclusion by Dr Lois Oppenheim in the Psychology Today article is – The basic premise of the film, that the triplets’ separation was a heartless scheme undertaken at the expense of the children’s well-being to enable a scientific study, is fiction. The filmmakers could have created a documentary about the complexities of the twin study, its origins and context, and the changing standards of ethical norms and lessons learned. This might have been less dramatic, but it would have made an important contribution to our understanding of gene research and parenting.

Yet, the practice of separating identical or even non-identical siblings in the adoption industry continues and the study and research of such persons continues to this day. Regarding my photo above of Lily MacLeod and Gillian Shaw, the story in The Toronto Star by Amy Dempsey tells us that the 12-year-olds were separated as babies in China but reunited after the two separate Ontario couples adopted them. When their separate/different adoptive parents made the startling discovery that their two daughters were identical twins, they vowed to raise the girls as sisters. Their situation is highly unusual: Lily and Gillian are two of only a handful of twin pairs – mostly Chinese children adopted by North American parents – who are being raised, knowing they are siblings but separately apart. For scientific researchers, the girls are yet another opportunity to study the effects of nature vs nurture in real-time. As for their families – strangers thrown together by the most unusual of circumstances – their situation explores a new kind of blended family, with unique and fascinating joys and challenges.

The Toronto Star goes beyond the story of the twin Chinese girls to note that in the late 1970s, scientists at the Minnesota Center for Twin and Adoption Research began studying what was then a new category of multiples — adopted twins who were separated at birth and reunited as adults. Dr Thomas Bouchard’s landmark paper was titled “Minnesota Study of Identical Twins Reared Apart.” The study shook the scientific community by demonstrating, across a number of traits, that twins raised apart are as similar as twins raised together. The study’s evidence of genetic influence in traits such as personality (50 per cent heritable) and intelligence (70 per cent heritable) overturned conventional ideas about parenting and teaching. And findings of genetic influence on physiological characteristics have led to new ways of fighting and preventing disease.

While I was yet pregnant with my oldest son, I chose to read a book titled Mother Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy which had just come out in the year before. So my interest is long standing and it is little wonder that the issues continue to capture my interest. For centuries, the self-sacrificing mother who places her child’s needs and desires above her own has defined womanhood. Designed by nature for the task of rearing offspring, women are “naturally” tender, selfless and compassionate where their progeny are concerned. Those who reject childbearing or fail to nurture their offspring directly are typed as pathological, “unnatural” women. In traditional Darwinian evolutionary biology, the female of any species has evolved to produce and nurture the species; one could say it is her only role. Feminist treatises have long argued against the necessary conflation of “woman” with “mother,” and classics such as Adrienne Rich’s Of Woman Born have cogently argued that such altruistic maternity is a cultural construct and not a biological given.

From a review (link above) of Hrdy’s book Mother Nature – US anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy strides into the minefield, examining motherhood across cultures, historical periods, evolutionary tracts and biological species to better understand human maternity. Hrdy’s book resides in that rare space between academic disciplines (she is a professor emerita at the University of California-Davis and she has been schooled in anthropology, primatology, evolutionary theory, history and feminism). Her work can be situated somewhere between specialist treatise and popular biological science. Hrdy’s unique placement enables her to combine the best of Darwinian evolutionary biology with feminist cultural theory, without falling into the political entrapments of either camp.

Heartening for me, as a biological/genetic mother who lost physical (but not legal) custody of her daughter when she was only 3 years old, I am reminded in this review of Hrdy’s book that stay-at-home mothers are rare in the historical and evolutionary archives; community caregiving is an age-old model of childrearing. Throughout history in primate and human communities, mothering techniques involve “allomothers”: the delegation of child caretaking to other members (male and female) of the community. “Mothers have worked for as long as our species has existed, and they have depended on others to help them rear their children,” Hrdy writes. That means I was not the abject failure I believed my self to be for over 60 years but just another kind of mother. Motherhood today often includes women who have jobs and incomes of their own. Hrdy sees this as an evolutionary process to ensure long and safe lives for these mother’s child(ren). A lack of financial resources most certainly drove me to leave my daughter with her paternal grandmother, while I took a risk to see if I could earn some decent money driving an 18-wheel truck. There never was the intention to permanently abandon my child to other people. Thankfully, as adults we are happily close enough at heart and I believe love one another as fully as any mom could hope for. It is actually the lack of financial resources that is at cause for most adoptions.

In “60 Years On, Twin/Triplet Study Still Raises Questions” – an interview of Dr Leon Hoffman by Elizabeth Hlavinka for Medpage Today looks at the ethics of that study, which began in 1960 (the documents from which are sealed in the archives at Yale University until 2065). This tells me that Peter Neubauer, who died in 2008, eventually had his own qualms about the ethics of what he had perpetrated, though he is judged to have mostly been concerned with confidentiality issues that (until open adoptions began) were the rule in commercial closed adoptions (the effects of which continue to obstruct and vex adult adoptees to this day – change comes slowly). My blog today takes it title from an observation by Dr Hoffman – that the problem with a lot of “exposés” is that we judge the past by our present values.  That is an important point. He also notes that at the time of the Neubauer project, there was a prevailing belief that twins would be better off separated, if they were going to be adopted. That twins were more difficult for the mother and that it would be easier for the mother to take care of one child instead of two children. I understand. In our mom’s group, those with twins often hired au pairs to assist them in those early days.

In this interview, Dr Hoffman notes – I always tell parents of kids that I see, “How much is genetic and how much is environment?” and I always say, “It’s 100% of both,” because those two are always interacting with one another. More and more data has shown that genetic variations get very much affected by the environment. I believe this is also evident in the story about the triplets. They even admit that during that time of their own high publicity, they amplified their similarities because that is what people were curious about. It is clear that they each had unique personalities that do seem to have been affected by their adoptive parents and the differing environmental situations they were raised in. As aging adults, the two surviving individuals have very different surface appearances while retaining many similarities.

Since I have looked at mother/child separations now for several years and am against the practice of adoption generally and in favor of family preservation, I was emotionally triggered last night by thinking about the amplifying effect of separation trauma (which IS mentioned by the triplets in their documentary) as yet another separation wound for babies who grew into their humanity in the same womb. Fortunately for the children in my mom’s group, they don’t have either of those added traumas. “The twin relationship, particularly with (identical) twins, is probably the closest of human social ties,” says Nancy Segal, who is herself a twin. This is why it’s so important for multiples to grow up together. Segal, now a psychology professor at California State University, has found about 15 more sets of adopted twin children being raised by different families, most of them Chinese girls. Researchers attribute this phenomenon to China’s one-child policy, which led to the abandonment of thousands of female babies. Though China’s official adoption rules state that twins should be placed together, pairs like Lily and Gillian prove things don’t always happen that way.

I found one other article that I’m not going to say very much about. You can read the story – Stories of Twins Separated at Birth by Pamela Prindle Fierro at the VeryWell Family website. There are the two sisters – Anais Bordier and Samantha Futerman. They found each other through Facebook and YouTube. They had been raised on different continents. The article includes information about the “Jim Twins” – James Arthur Springer and James Edward Lewis who found each other at the age of 39 in 1979. And there are actually MORE stories at this link.

The important thing to learn is that every action taken, that affects another human being, has the possibility of unintended consequences and that there is always the need for a fully informed consent in the interest of human well-being. An issue with adoptees is that due to their young age, they are never able to give informed consent and therefore, their rights are never considered. This is an issue with many adoptees who feel they are treated like second-class citizens with important basic human rights withheld from them – identity and medical issues foremost. An evolving issue with donor conceptions is similar. The human being conceived in that manner had no ability to consent to the method of their conception. Realistically, none of us consents (in a human sense, but I believe we do in non-physical prior to birth as I believe we are eternal souls).

In Praise Of Adoption

An adoptee friend of mine alerted me to this article that is an interview of Scott Simon. It touches upon an interesting tangential or is it potential argument for adopting based upon the environment. The title of the article is NPR’s Scott Simon on Adoption and Environmentalism. Before I go any further, I’ll quickly answer that part – the interviewer mentions reading the book and coming across this passage: “Adopting a child to prove something is not a healthy motivation. I would seriously consider alerting the authorities if I heard a prospective parent say, ‘We want to adopt because it’s the most environmentally responsible thing to do.  Don’t want to increase our carbon footprint, after all!’ ”

I give Simon and his wife some credit for trying assisted reproduction first. I don’t know how far that went with that effort beyond the most traditional and conventional method of invitro fertilization. When that effort failed, their next thought was “there are children in the world already who need us, so why don’t we do that ?”

I don’t know how much the couple investigated the whole orphan industry in foreign countries. I know quite a bit that is unsavory and deceptive in those situations and I don’t intend to do more than mention there is more going on there than a gullible hopeful adoptive parent might wish to know and is completely willing to remain ignorant of. The fact that I have issues with transracial adoption generally should come as no surprise to anyone who has been reading this blog for very long.

Simeon and his wife adopted from China and to their credit (though it will not actually prove to be enough to offset the loss of native culture for his daughters) they have tried – they see a family therapist and their children go to a weekly cultural class that teaches Mandarin stories and songs.

Simon says, “you ought to have children out of joy, not out of sense of duty.” Yet, I question, is not thinking you are “saving” children some kind of sense of duty, what is often referred to in adoption circles as saviorism.

He perceives adoption as a kind of global warming addressing the needs of 150 million orphaned and abandoned children in this world. I refer the reader back to my previous comment about transracial adoption and these children in foreign countries. I would add here – most are not orphans or abandoned. They do come from poverty stricken families who expect their children to return to them some day after a good education in the United States and that actually rarely is successful, even if the adoptee makes an effort because that child has been severed from their cultural roots and has a difficult time relating.

Simon admits that adoption is “good for those of us who adopt. It’s transforming — literally, physically, emotionally transforming.” I do not doubt the truth of that statement. This does not consider the child them selves. Simeon mentions talking to adoptees for his book “who say they have no interest whatsoever in meeting their birth parents, and I think it’s possible that five months or five years or 10 years after saying that, they may feel differently.”

There are MANY adoptees today constantly doing their best to reconnect with their genetic biological families. This I do know is true. My own mom who was adopted tried and failed to be able to reconnect with her mom as she was deceased by that time, and later on inexpensive DNA testing through Ancestry did not bring her the results she was seeking – though it has been a great assistance to me. My dad (also adopted) never expressed the same interest and in fact seemed fearful of what he might learn.

As a person who became a parent for the second and third time at an advanced age, I do agree with Simon that “Having children is a profoundly personal decision and personal experience, and I can’t put myself in the position of judging.” I stop short of agreeing with him that “[adoption is] a very good thing to do.” because at this point in my own self-education, I don’t believe that – in most cases (honestly, not every possible circumstance – I reserve a strong belief there may be exceptions).

The interviewer indicates the possibility that the Simon’s happy family came about through the unhappy circumstance of China’s draconian one-child policy. His answer is something I need to deeply contemplate as I don’t know everything, though I do know some that troubles me – we did not get our children from a family or a single mother; we got them out of institutions. If we hadn’t adopted them, or somebody else hadn’t adopted them, they would’ve grown up in institutions. They wouldn’t have grown up in institutions in the way that we understand growing up — they would have stayed there until the age of 12 or 13, then they would’ve gone into farm or factory work, or worse, which is too terrible to contemplate. It’s China’s one-child policy that took them away from their families. I don’t think anything would’ve been accomplished by leaving them there. I say a few times in the book, it’s our blessing that began with a tragedy, a tragedy that’s also a crime.

Simon ends on a belief that adoption is preferable to creating a family using the new technologies as adoption is an ancient practice (though until modern times no one profited financially as an industry). I disagree with him on that point as well. That should not surprise anyone as I have two sons for whom my husband is the genetic biological father thanks to a new technology that allowed me to use a compassionate and generous woman’s eggs – twice – years apart, yielding for us two 100% genetically biological siblings.